Court and controversy: Garrett in the dock

Court and controversy: Garrett in the dock
Times Higher Education

Bradley Garrett was one of a group of nine people charged with conspiracy to commit criminal damage after scaling London’s skyscrapers and exploring the city’s disused Underground tunnels.

Court proceedings began at the end of April. All but two of the defendants had the charges against them dropped.

The two remaining defendants, Garrett and co-defendant Christopher Reinstadtler, 32, of Riverside Close, Farnborough, also had charges of conspiracy dropped and replaced with counts of criminal damage, for which Reinstadtler received an 18-month conditional discharge and Garrett a three-year conditional discharge on 21 May. Garrett was also ordered to pay costs of £2,000.

Garrett pleaded guilty to five counts of criminal damage to railway property, including removing a wing nut from a door and removing a board and replacing it again.

Photographs of Garrett on top of the Shard have appeared in the national press, and the author Robert Macfarlane, a fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, joined Garrett on a visit to an empty 19th-century subterranean reservoir for a feature published in The Guardian in September last year.

In the Evening Standard on 25 April, the author Will Self called the court case “bizarre” and argued that Garrett “was working in the tradition of ethnographers from Malinowski to Margaret Mead when he joined the place-hackers on their nocturnal adventures”.

Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder professor of human geography at the University of Oxford, told Times Higher Education that “it’s perfectly clear from the outcome reached that it was a mistake to bring [the case] in the way it was”.

But a spokesman for the British Transport Police said: “The railway, whether disused or in operation, is a dangerous place for those not meant to be there and access restrictions, which should not be taken lightly, are in place to protect members of the public from harm.”

A spokeswoman for Royal Holloway, University of London, where Garrett obtained his PhD, issued the following statement.

“Dr Garrett raises some important issues which are worthy of debate in the academic community and beyond. As things stand, Royal Holloway, like all universities, is not in a position to offer protection to researchers from police investigations or criminal charges, and cannot hinder their investigations.”

The statement continues: “Like all individuals and organisations, we also cannot make any public comment, whether in support or otherwise, about ongoing criminal proceedings in which our staff are witnesses, without being in contempt of court. For us the key debate is around the extent of protection in law for bona fide academic research, as Dr Garrett suggests himself.”

Times Higher Education reporters